By M. Skye Holly
In recent years, films like Think Like a Man and The Best Man franchises have struck a chord with black women all across America, and for good reason. Stories of successful black men and women are in demand on the big screen, especially by women of color who want to see more accurate representations of themselves. This week, Everything But a Man will join the fold, bringing an international touch to the conversation.
Everything But a Man is the first collaboration of writer/director Nnegest Likké (Phat Girlz) and actor Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes, Heroes Reborn) teaming up as producers. The movie is a result of true-to-life experiences, as well as Likké and Jean-Louis’ own talks trying to tackle a recurring question among family and friends: “Why is it so hard for a successful black woman to get a man?” Likké penned the script in hopes of exposing this widespread concern and pointing out solutions. In Everything But a Man, Vanessa (Monica Calhoun, The Best Man, The Players Club) is an Ivy-League educated, successful attorney with no lack of material things. Her life, enviable, seemingly has it all, except, you guessed it-a relationship.
Enter Max (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a hard working landscaper who, according to Jean-Louis would be “usually completely invisible to a successful woman” like Vanessa. Not only are their professional lives vastly different, but so are their cultures. Vanessa is an American and Max is an immigrant.
Right there is when the conversation adds another layer, which is exactly what Jean-Louis says he and Lekké were striving for with the drama/romance/comedy. Jean-Louis shared that when the idea of dating an immigrant is brought up, it is interesting to hear the labels associated with foreigners. “Illegal,” “Not good enough,” and “Up to no good,” he said, are common ones.
“We rarely take the time to look at the depths of a person,” Jean-Louis said. Jean-Louis feels that when Americans consider foreign places or situations, it is typically in light of something extravagant. “Anything not American has potential to create fear…unless it’s an exotic image,” he said. “When you think of Jamaica, it’s vacation…a fantasy world and music. Think of Cuba and you think of rum; Paris-you think of wine, you think of what’s classy,” he said.
Jimmy Jean-Louis is optimistic when it comes to the future narrative of the single black woman in America. He believesEverything But a Man is “a reflection of what’s going on in society” and challenges some of the notions some women have on putting their careers first or dating outside of their culture, or even race. He hopes the movie will be an invitation for women to become or remain open-minded, and expose themselves to different people and experiences.
He is proud that some of the film’s scenes were shot on-location in Port-au-Prince and Petionville. This was also a deliberate effort of exposure. “I’m extremely proud of that,” he said. “I’m proud that we were able to showcase parts of Haiti.”
Even though Jimmy Jean-Louis has always considered himself an open-minded person, having lived in several countries throughout his life, working on this film as a producer showed him other aspects of the entertainment industry he had not considered previously. It also reinforced his ideas on love and taking risks in a relationship. He joked that his fans may never know–somewhere in the future he might become another Dr. Phil, but before we start calling him Dr. Jimmy, he’s excited for us to catch him star with Monica Calhoun, “a great leading [lady]” in Everything But a Man.